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Supermarkets are evil

3 Apr


It all started innocently enough.
I’ve just returned to the workforce full-time after a long absence during which I grew three people in my stomach from scratch). It’s been amazing. It’s a dream position, I’m enjoying every second and even the bus ride to and from work is fun.

I have to be honest. Some things have fallen by the wayside. Granted I’m only two weeks in and it will take some time to adjust but I really need to keep on top of my laundry, do the ironing instead of shifting the pile of unironed clothes onto different chairs in my lounge room and I my son has been getting lunch orders at school three times a week instead of one.

Anyway, today I left work before everyone else to race to school and pick up my son, niece and nephew. My husband called me repeatedly. He was wondering what time I’d be home just in case we’d see each other before he left for work at 3. I’d arrive home at ten past 3. Oh well, see you whenever.

My son has art class on Wednesdays at 4.30, just enough time to head home, tidy up and get dinner started before leaving again to drop him off. I haven’t grocery shopped all week. Since starting work I’ve been efficient and organised and shopping online but after the long weekend all delivery windows were full. I had to grocery shop in person and since we’d now run out of Butter Soft it was critical that I shopped this afternoon. I had exactly an hour to get it done before picking Philip up from school.

I headed to my local shops, took my little kids to the toilet, bought them a snack (a donut for one and a sushi roll for the other) and into the supermarket we went. I raced through the aisles and filled my trolley with an efficiency I didn’t know I was capable of. We needed soft rolls, bayonet light globes, kitty litter and Butter Soft.

The cold food aisle was the last before I could head to the check out. The trolley was very full and I had just enough room for our precious Butter Soft (we looooove our Butter Soft). My son ran ahead. He knows exactly where it is and it’s his job to get it.

It was all gone.

A wave of fury engulfed me. This was the second time I’d tried to buy Butter Soft in two weeks. Last time we had a bit left but now we were totally out. My husband took rolls to work, my son ate Vitaweats with butter and vegemite every day, I was still eating hot cross buns for breakfast. No other butter will do.

My heart started to beat loudly. I felt the meltdown coming on. I tried to push it down. I reminded myself that I had chocolate bullets in the trolley and if I could just get myself to the car and throw a few back I might feel better about the fact that the one thing I absolutely had to buy today was sold the frig out. How is it that supermarkets manage to run out of the items we most like to buy? Isn’t it their job to make sure they have plenty of stock? Do they have some in the back room and they’re hiding it from me? It’s now 5pm and I’m tired and hungry and cold and I don’t have the time or energy to go to another shopping centre.

I pushed the overflowing trolley to the nearest checkout and started unpacking. I unpacked in a way that aimed to punish the cashier for the fact the Butter Soft was all gone. Instead of carefully putting all the bread together, the cold foods, the heavy bottles, I placed them haphazardly. That’ll fuck ‘em. Try and pack properly amidst the chaos. If only you’d had Butter Soft, my day would have been perfect. Every day has to be PERFECT.

Sensing my mood the cashier didn’t bother to greet me. I finished unpacking and started loading bags into the trolley.

“Is there a reason you’re always out of Butter Soft,” I asked.

“Ah, I don’t know. We’re out?”

“Yes, and there was none last week either. Just unsalted.”

“I can let our manager know,” she said helpfully.

“Won’t do me much good in the morning will it?”

“We normally restock every night.”

“I’ve just started working and this is when I can grocery shop. Are you going to be out of the things I need every Wednesday? There wasn’t any Butter Soft, you’re out of Yoplait Strawberry Yoghurt again and you’ve sold out of Nice biscuits. How is that possible?”

“Um, I’m not sure,” she mumbled.

I stopped talking. I handed over my Fly Buys card, let the Eftpos machine beep a few times before removing my card and then walked to the card feeling defeated. I’d have to come back to the shops again. We really needed Butter Soft. We don’t like any other spread. Our lives revolve around Butter Soft, Moccona Indulgence, full-fat strawberry yoghurt and Nice biscuits.

Some things are just INFURIATING. I feel like they deliberately run out of popular items to force us to come back more than once in a week. It’s a conspiracy. We’re being duped.

I’ve just placed a small grocery order online and it include 6 containers of Butter Soft, 4 packets of Nice biscuits and the bayonet light globes I forgot. God help me if I get an ‘out of stock’ email. I’m telling you know. I can handle work, the kids, uni, coming up with an interesting outfit EVERY day but don’t mess with my food. That’s what will tip me over the edge, that and having to grocery shop more than once a week.

Is there a uni degree that teaches you how to enroll?

24 Jan


Is it just me? I feel SO DUMB. I am having HUGE problems enrolling in my uni subject this year, in fact every year and it seems that the tediousness of academic websites is true. There are no straight answers to be found. It’s like they make it deliberately hard so if you are smart enough to enroll and determined enough to persevere then and only then are you admitted into the course.

I mean it. This isn’t even funny. I am LOSING SLEEP. Talk about anxiety. And being an ‘external’ student I don’t have a circle of uni friends to laugh about it with. There’s no unwinding at the uni bar for me, no access to anti-anxiety medication or even chocolate bars from a vending machine. Here I am in my pjs ready to smash my computer or just GIVE UP! I can’t even scream or cry or I’ll wake up my peacefully sleeping children who are too young to know about this future torment.


I am one year into a Masters in Creative Arts specialising in Writing at my dream uni, Macquarie Uni. I love it. I love my fellow students who I talk to at our online forum. I love my lecturers who I’ve been lucky enough to meet on our ‘on campus’ days. I want to study at uni forever. I want to BE my lecturers.

But everything is so tedious, so devoid of compassion, so difficult and everything takes soooooooooooooooooooooo long.

Still, I cannot give up. I spent a year fighting for time to study and write, squeezing into the little pockets of time my kids were distracted by new toys, a couple of hours each night after they’d gone to bed before I started falling asleep myself. It can’t all be for nothing.

Maybe it’s a trap? Maybe if I study the wrong subjects I’ll have to stay for an additional year and then I can use those incorrect subjects I have already completed to count towards a future degree. Is that it? Is it a cult and they are trying to trick me into staying forever?

Look, I just need to step back. Yes the deadline is looming and no, I’m not being offered any help but I can do it. I CAN DO IT.

I just need to approach it like that hideous paper I had to write for Literary Theory which required hours of research. I have to gather the bits of information that do exist and put them all together and figure it out. I’ll give myself a Distinction damn it. I’ll be proud of myself. I might even hold my own special ceremony congratulating myself. Because it’s one of the hardest, most frustrating processes I’ve ever been through.

They will not break me. They will not!

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi



Go Margie! The Biggest Loser finale tonight!

8 May

I’ve had a soft spot for Margie since the first episode of The Biggest Loser. She’s so honest and desperate for a better life. All the contestants touch me in some way but when it comes to the final four, I am most definitely Team Margie!

Margie, Brenda, Alex and Kasey all deserve to win, but they’ve won already. They’ve transformed themselves and they have the potential for a much better, healthier life.

I don’t watch reality TV religiously at first. I usually latch on mid-season and by the end I’m organising my schedule around weigh ins, cook offs and finales. The Biggest Loser is special. Yes they lose weight with a lot of help and under extraordinary circumstances. It’s true that we could never lose weight at the rate they do. But what I love about this show is the happiness that starts to shine through. They are given a glimpse of what their life could be. They realise that ultimately when it comes to their life and happiness, THEY are the ones in control.

Losing weight is difficult and putting on weight is depressing but at the end of the day, we are in control.

People close to me have tranformed themselves but it’s taken commitment, diligence and dedication. It’s been about consistency and permanent changes. There are no crash diets…just small changes that become habit. Eating healthier food, eating less, exercising every week and letting bad eating days be bad eating days, not bad eating weeks or months.

I hope all the contestants embrace their new lifestyle. I hope they keep the weight off. I hope they remember that they are in control and I hope Margie wins tonight!!!

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

I used to think I was busy

28 Mar

I used to think I was busy. I was looking after my three children, working occasionally, trying to keep up with the housework and my sense of self (both of which seem to cancel the other out). The point is that I was busy, but I still had time to THINK.

This week, I officially don’t have time to think. As I write this I am listening to a uni lecture. I am even making notes. Multi-tasker extraordinaire! My husband is so funny. He wouldn’t dare tell me to say no to extra work and he’ll carefully avoid mentioning his lack of clean work shirts (he’d do them himself if I had time to let him know that I can’t) and he tries not to enrage me at dinner, making sure to let me know that he doesn’t mind toasted sandwiches or last night’s dinner of eggs on toast.

Before you start screaming in feminist outrage, my husband leave for work at 3.30am and doesn’t get home until at least 6.30pm. Crazy hours, a crazy job but the money makes it worth it and I’m meant to take care of the rest so he can get through it all. Sometimes I pack his lunch. Sometimes I fall asleep in the clothes I was wearing that day. When I read stories to the little kids at night I skip a few pages, hoping they won’t notice. My eldest son told me that when he calls me in the middle of the night I look a bit like a monster. Monster-mummy doesn’t like being woken up and because she’s fallen asleep in her clothes and makeup she sure does look like a bit of a monster, in fact a lot of a monster.

Insert your own manic list here but this week I am – having meetings at my son’s school re bullying, having meetings at my son’s school re Trivia Night and the upcoming P & F meeting, meeting up with the committee at my son’s pre-school re my role as Treasurer, trying to keep up with two subjects of my masters degree, working way too much, doing enough housework so we can walk across a room without getting bits of food stuck to our legs and doing enough laundry so we have enough clean clothes although the clean clothes may not be the clothes we want to wear. I went to the doctor where I found out I am anemic and deficient in vitamin D. I’m trying to reduce our family sugar intake to cure my husband’s gout and improve our health overall but we’ve run out of good fruit and the corn I bought has rotted. My friend and I are writing a book together. My email inbox is struggling to cope. I think it needs some vitamins too.

Yes, I know you are screaming at me at the moment. Talk to my sister. She’s been saying this to me several times a week. “You are doing too much”. Yes, I am doing too much because I feel like I am running out of time to do all the things I want to do before I die. But I’m doing everything badly. I’m forgetting basic things like buying night time pants for my son (crucial to a good night sleep for me!), we ran out of toothpaste for the first time in eight years, I sometimes call my children, niece and nephews two or three different names before I get to the right one and I would LOVE to do a hard workout on my cross trainer followed by some girlie pushups and then wash my hair and blow dry it perfectly. Oh, I think I fell asleep for a second and had a mini-dream.

The lecture is finishing. Good. I absorbed enough to fudge my way through this week’s online discussion.

I reached breaking point yesterday afternoon when I realised I’d forgotten to organise my son’s birthday party which is coming up all too soon. I haven’t exercised for days. I feel like crap. Somethings gotta give.

I just said no to more weekday work and it physically hurt to say no because I LOVE my job. I have emailed a lecturer to drop one subject at uni which means it will take me four years instead of two to get my Masters in Creative Writing but at least I’ll actually get it. I’ve contacted a place that will host my son’s birthday party and now need to find time to drop off a deposit. This will help me for now. And perhaps I’ll stick a note on my bedroom wall that says “Say no Jo”. Catchy. Or in the words of my two-year-old daughter, “No mummy work”.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi


21 Jan

Tonight I witnessed my first ‘glassing’ incident.

I was at a younger friend’s birthday celebration with my sister. We pulled up to a fancy looking venue which was cleverly designed to be a mostly outdoor space. It was lovely and seemed very posh to us. It’s located out of the CBD so it’s easy to get to and park near. The night started well. We looked around impressed and considered functions we could have there in the future. Our friend had an area to herself and the DJ was playing great music. Dinner was delicious and we were starting to have fun.

It all started to go a awry when we noticed we were having trouble breathing. Apparently the clever outdoor design allows it to be one of the rare venues left where smoking is permitted everywhere. The busier it became the more clogged the air became. Then we noticed how short the girls dresses were. I turned 36 today and I know I’m older than the average patron but really…the dresses were tops to me. It looked like they had forgotten to put pants on. Not all the girls, but many of them. And the guys were so young. My sister kept commenting that she was old enough to be the mother of many of them. We’d certainly wandered into the wrong venue or ten years too late!

My sister and I were having trouble figuring out what to do. We didn’t know too many people at the party we were at, we’d eaten, my sister had a couple of drinks and one game of the pokies. We joked about going to the toilets and taking our pants off in an attempt to fit in (using our tops as dresses) but decided to start dancing instead, pants and all. The DJ who was playing great music had an annoying habit of changing songs after the first chorus. By this stage it was too loud to yell at him to play the entire song or at least most of it so we shrugged it off and kept dancing. That’s when I noticed a smaller guy walking quickly away from a menacing looking man who was in hot pursuit. They weren’t running but their fast path cut across the dance floor and got our attention. We kept on dancing and then we saw a commotion. The menacing man was gaining on the other guy and before my eyes the pursuer threw his glass with force towards the pursuee. Glass shattered everywhere. It was on.

Before I could yell for security several security and staff members came running and grabbed the glasser quickly. But he wasn’t going down without a fight. It took several security personnel and a couple of bar staff to drag him out of the venue. Unfortunately his forced exit was being made just behind where my sister and I stood gapping. I dragged her out of the way and they ejected him and fought to keep him under control until the police arrived a few minutes later. The music had been turned off as soon as the glass was thrown. Obviously there was a zero-tolerance policy to drunken violence. The DJ put on a loud song as soon as he had been dragged out and we started dancing again, half-heartedly, when I noticed the two girls my sister and I had just been dancing with sitting down next to the dance floor. One seemed to be having trouble breathing. I went over to them and the girl having trouble breathing seemed to be having a panic attack. Her friend who had obviously helped her through one before was trying to calm her down. I asked if I should get a drink and her friend asked me to bring some water. I ran and grabbed it from the bar and the girl in distress gulped some of it down. My sister made her laugh by doing some silly dancing and she was able to stand up and walk back to her table.

In the meantime a crowd had formed and was watching the police deal with the drunk-and-disorderly glasser. Lleyton Hewitt was trying to advance in the Australian Open at the time but his struggle was now being ignored, despite the giant screens located all over the venue. Several police marched in and were directed to witnesses by bar staff. They stayed for at least an hour. They had blocked off the street and while we tried to dance and move on with our night staff were on edge and everyone seemed a little shocked.

Lleyton Hewitt ended up winning his marathon match against Milos Raonic but by then we were in my car heading home. I felt unsafe. There were so many glasses everywhere. There were piles and piles of potential projectiles everywhere I turned. They should switch to plastic. They should have a non-smoking area. They should re-think their open plan design. There were some antsy looking patrons whom I suspected were friends of the now arrested glasser. The DJ kept changing the song. I didn’t recognise some of the songs. Someone breathed smoked directly into my face, making me cough. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

This is one venue I won’t be patronising again. I love going out and dancing and having a couple of drinks but it’s hard to find a venue in which I feel safe and comfortable. I use tops and tops, not dresses, I don’t drink (my sister just has a couple) and we just want to be able to dance and breathe at the same time. The only time we ever really have fun is when it’s our own private function or if it is a dinner-dance organised by our children’s school. Everywhere else is just so unsafe, especially venues that still use glassware and masquerade as stylish when they are in fact just havens for smokers. I’m not anti-smoker, I just want an area for non-smokers too.

Gosh, I sound so old don’t I? We were really freaked out by the violence and everything else just gave me a headache. It was just a little too much.

Now I am back home, safe in front of my computer. I have no desire to go out at night again any time soon. It’s a crazy world out there and one I no longer feel safe in. It just seems like there is so much violence and over what? I keep trying to think of what could have offended this man so much that he resorted to violence. It wasn’t even targetted violence. He managed to get glass on several people in the surrounding area. He actually spilled half his drink down my sister’s back when he pushed past us. Did the man he was chasing look at his girlfriend? Did he blurt out a racial slur? What could have gone wrong so quickly? When did glassing replace giving someone the finger or telling them to bugger off?

It’s a mystery I will leave for others to solve. My contribution will be staying as far away from similar situations as possible and begging my younger friends to stay safe when they go out. You do need to choose your venue carefully, you need to go out with people you trust and you need to leave as soon as you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. It just looked so nice when we arrived. Appearances can be deceiving, or perhaps this is a normal night for a busy venue with one freakishly strong drunk man who was greatly offended by God only knows what. I’ve never been so happy to see flashing blue and red lights. It was probably a typical Saturday night for them too. Not so  much for me.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Is it Deborah Hutton’s fault I feel fat?

4 Jan

I buy Women’s Weekly religiously. I am so excited when I see the latest edition on the shelf and I sometimes buy three…one for me, one for my sister and one for my mum. As a woman I appreciate that it gives me the perfect blend of food, clothes, body and news issues to keep me happy. I often clear my afternoon so I can read it from front to back at least once and then I dip in and out over the following weeks until the next edition arrives.

When I saw Deborah Hutton on the cover I was so excited to go home and read the article. As a woman of reasonable intelligence I am aware of the fact that most magazine pictures are retouched in some way, some more than others. I am also aware of makeup, lighting, hairspray and spray tans. I also knew that there was no way Deborah Hutton would ever let anyone re-touch her too much because she has always struck me as a down-to-earth Aussie woman who is not only beautiful but is aware of the many issues surrounding woman and their self-worth. Because she is a woman and no matter how beautiful or accomplished, every woman has their issues.

So why all the drama? Deborah Hutton is beautiful, but why does that make women feel badly about themselves. Even more disturbing is the notion that Deborah Hutton has to look bad or flawed for women to feel good about themselves, as though rejoicing in Deborah’s imperfections will help them to embrace their imperfections. So to feel good about themselves, they have to feed off what they see as wrong and ugly about others. This is such an uncomfortable reflection on women. Why can’t we celebrate each other’s beauty, health and achievements? Why do we feel better when we read about failure and flaws? Is it because they makes us feel normal or is it because our own self-worth is measured against others and not just celebrities?

This certainly explains why many magazines sell so well. Kim’s marriage failed…I feel better that mine is a disaster, Christina is fat…I feel better about my weight, Nicole Kidman’s latest movie didn’t go very well…my career failures are more acceptable to me too. And it doesn’t end there. As women we are constantly sizing each other up. Is she a better mother than me? Is she thinner than me? Is she younger than me? Is she more successful than me?

Not all women are like this but many are. Those of us who are not don’t measure our self-worth against others but instead try to base it on our own internal reflections about ourselves. I am the best mother I can be, I look as good as I can manage, my weight is the best I can get it and I may never look like Deborah Hutton but boy am I going to enjoy reading all about her while I relax with coffee for thirty minutes this afternoon while my children nap.

As women, I find that we also often feel like are alone with our issues and struggles. We see someone enjoying their children and assume they never get cross or have a bad mummy day. We see a pretty girl and assume that she feels as pretty as she looks. We work with a confident colleague and assume that she never doubts herself. This is simply not the case. We all have moments, days and weeks when we feel just as badly as the next person. Take comfort in the fact that everyone struggles from time-to-time meaning we are surrounded by groups of women who understand how hard it can be to be a woman.

We are all doing our best and if not, we can always do better tomorrow. Deborah Hutton is a beautiful, successful Australian woman with a great career, no kids and fab hair. I accept her for who she is and who she is doesn’t influence how I feel about myself.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

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